AB Greg Venables of Southern Cone
expands on Primates Communique
and responds to Katharine Jefferts Schori’s interpretation
Saturday February 24th 2007, 11:09 pm
Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone: Pastoral Letter Addressing the Primates Meeting
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
To my dear brothers and sisters in Christ in the Southern Cone:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the One Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
I am enroute back to Buenos Aires having, as you are well aware, been meeting in Dar es Salaam with the other Primates of the Anglican Communion. The meeting has resulted in a great deal of attention. I thought it might be helpful to share some of my thoughts with you.
The meeting was a remarkable one in that we were able, through much painful honesty and clear speech, to come to a common agreement. Frankly, I was surprised at that. Given the great polarization in the Anglican Communion, I held out little hope for a way forward. The willingness of many of our colleagues from the two-thirds world to speak plainly about the changes to the faith that The Episcopal Church (now called TEC) has introduced to the “faith once delivered to the saints” was a clear sign of the work of the Holy Spirit. While these changes centre around their pursuit of what might be called a “same-sex agenda,” departures from Christian practice and teaching extend well beyond that. Their view and interpretation of Scripture is vastly different from Anglican teaching and two millennia of Christian understanding and interpretation. This, of course, tragically leads away from the essential and central truth of the unique role of Jesus Christ in the atonement and in the power of His resurrection. In other words the very basis of the Gospel which is our one hope and glory.
A number of press reports have asked why human sexuality was even discussed given the importance of the Millennium Goals for the elimination of poverty. Of course, a church with the compassionate heart of Christ will work to address–even eradicate–poverty. Contrary to popular understanding, however, behaviour of all types has theological implications. The Bible is completely clear that sexual behaviour has deep spiritual significance. It is concern for people’s souls that causes us to address this issue, not fear or revulsion. The heart and soul of the Church is the proclamation of the Gospel. The core of the Gospel is repentance, forgiveness, and new life in Christ.
We must now see if the Episcopal Church is going to be willing to fulfill the spirit and the specifics of our agreement. From the first indications, I am most ´concerned. We gave much time to producing a Communiqué which was unambiguous and straightforward. Tragically, in the Presiding Bishop’s remarks to the Church Center community just two days after the close of the meeting she misguidingly argues that there was agreement and understanding among the Primates that blessings of same-sex couples could continue as “pastoral care” as long as there was no official published liturgy for it. That assertion quite scandalously demonstrates the very concern that the Communiqué addresses in identifying this situation.
“There appears to us to be an inconsistency between the position of General Convention and local pastoral provision. We recognise that the General Convention made no explicit resolution about such Rites and in fact declined to pursue resolutions which, if passed, could have led to the development and authorisation of them. However, we understand that local pastoral provision is made in some places for such blessings. It is the ambiguous stance of The Episcopal Church which causes concern among us.”
It is alarmingly disingenuous to suggest that the Primates could adopt such an ambiguity after explicitly expressing such deep concern for the harm that this sort of action has caused.
At the close of the meeting, I said that what we had decided was “a way forward,” but not “the answer.” The answer for the communion is found in the Word of God and in the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus. It is a sufficiently robust message. It does not have to be replaced by another one. Indeed to attempt to do so would be to miss the whole point. In fact, there is no other message that can bring real hope to the souls of men and women. There is no other message that can bring salvation. It is to that proclamation that we remain committed together with many others.
May God richly bless you and grant you peace. And may God richly bless this wonderful province.
Your brother and servant in Christ,
February 24, 2007
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